Uganda’s main cancer unit has announced that their radiotherapy machine used for treating cancer is broken and beyond repair. This will leave thousands of people unable to get potentially life-saving treatment.

The capital’s Mulago Hospital gets 44,000 new referrals a year from Uganda, as well as from neighboring countries including Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.

Speaking with BBC, the unit’s spokesperson said the breakdown of the radio therapy machine is having an impact on the patients who require treatment.

Radiotherapy is a treatment involving the use of high-energy radiation. It’s commonly used to treat cancer. Radiotherapy can be used, alone or in combination with chemotherapy to try to cure cancers. For people with incurable cancers, radiotherapy is a very effective way of controlling symptoms. Radiotherapy can also be used before surgery to shrink a tumor so it’s easier to remove (known as neoadjuvant treatment), or after surgery to destroy small amounts of tumor that may be left (known as adjuvant treatment).

The Health ministry’s director of cancer treatment, Dr Jackson Oryem, has said that a new radiotherapy machine should be delivered within the next year. In the meantime, patients are still able to get other treatments, such as chemotherapy and surgery, but if they need radiotherapy, and they can afford it, they will have to travel to neighboring Kenya. He said the government may be able to fund a trip abroad for some of the most urgent treatable cases.


Author: Yemi Olarinre